Microsoft Researcher Xiang Cao displays an avatar he created using Body Avatar, which lets users create 3-D avatars using a Kinect sensor and their own body as the starting point for the avatar’s shape. (Photo by Janet I. Tu / The Seattle Times)
From a smartphone app capable of capturing detailed 3-D scans to interactive whiteboards to a program capable of visualizing in several ways how a social media message goes viral, Microsoft’s TechFest 2013 was certainly full of cool stuff.
TechFest is the company’s annual science fair in which its advanced researchers show demos of what they’re working on. Today, a small portion of the approximately 150 demos are being shown to media, customers and partners. Wednesday and Thursday, TechFest will be open to Microsoft employees.
More than just cool stuff, though, the demos — or at least the small portion shown in the preview today — brought into focus some research areas Microsoft has been working on for several years now: natural user interface (NUI) — meaning interacting with computing devices using touch, speech or gestures; big data — synthesizing and making useful large amounts of information; and machine learning — the ability of computers to learn.
What came through at this TechFest is how those three areas often work together and also how “all these technologies are coming to maturity — both at Microsoft and in the industry at large,” said Steve Clayton, who writes about Microsoft Research for the company.